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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tomorrow is the Mommy's First Day of Vacation

Public school. Gah. As much as I hate it, we are still within the system, but I have to say that I have been looking forward to the first day of school for about, oh, two months now. The kiddos at home are five years old and eleven years old; both boys, and the oldest is bipolar. I have made it through the summer without the use of duct tape or sticking them together in the front yard with signs that say, "I love my brother," so we're doing good so far.

Trying to get ready for setting up at a motorcycle rally over Labor Day weekend, so my flightiness has been amplified; also went for an entire weekend without meds but am in the clear now. (Mr. Somewhat More Efficient Psychiatric Receptionist, the Universe thanks you.)

One of the other misadventures going on at our house is jewelry design. We have just started doing this within the last month, and honestly, I couldn't tell you why or how we started; it just kind of happened. My husband is a veteran and suffers from severe headaches; he kind of starting doing it to relax, I think, but it has evolved into a ritual. He has some awesome designs...Posting photos, but the layout of this blog won't cooperate and I'm a bit tipsy, so they're going to be random.

We've decided to open an etsy store; my broke ass can only list so many things at once, though. My soap line is called Simple Liberty, so that's the name of the store...we decided to call the jewelry line, "Conspiracy Fringe". You can check out some of the other stuff here.

I haven't been doing the necklace thing much myself; I lack the patience. However, I did do a steampunk one, and was pretty excited about how it turned out:

My crafting is very haphazard, so who knows if I can crank something out like that again. Time will tell.

Hope you're having a great evening, and thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Never Mind the Stench....

     Neem oil is amazing. It has been used for thousands of years for a wide variety of ailments, including skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and healing wounds. It gives the Indian people their incredible teeth, and is highly effective as a fungicide, an antibacterial agent, an analgesic, and has even been said to be 100% effective as a contraceptive. (I can see why....)
     What else is so amazing about Neem? It STINKS. I mean, worse than a dog fart, open- up- the -windows- and -mouth- breathe kind of stink. (Trust me, I have some gassy dogs, and this is much, much worse.) My gag reflex kicks in as soon as I open the bottle. Not sure what else I could compare it to...last night I told my husband that I think it smells like rotten peanut butter mixed with garlic. Truly nasty.
      Oddly enough, when the smell wafted to the living room, my kids thought it smelled like chicken.

     Here is the recipe I tried last night; my stepson, who is 13, has acne and wanted me to make something that might help him out:

12 oz. Coconut oil (76 degrees)
12 oz. Olive oil
5 oz. Sunflower oil
4 oz. Castor oil (for shampoo quality lather)
1 oz. organic Neem oil
4.836 oz. lye (sodium hydroxide)
11.22 oz. distilled water

(Always remember to run your recipe through a lye calculator!)

     I used the hot process method, because I am lazy and I don't like to wait 6 weeks for a cure. That said, you should still give your bars a couple of weeks to cure after the cook; using a dehumidifier or a fan can help the process somewhat.

     In my quest to cover up the incredible funkiness of the Neem, I used a blend of Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemongrass, and Tea Tree oils. It kind of worked. I can still smell the Neem, but my son can't. We'll see how it goes when we can actually use the bar. Will time mellow the stench? I hope so. Let me know if you try it.
     P.S. I figured out how to add a Pin It! Button, so would love you to share on Pinterest. Follow me on Pinterest as well!

Happy soaping!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Shampoo Bars: The Lazy Way to Have Gorgeous Hair

     I love shampoo bars. What could be better than lathering your hair with a bar of soap? No extra bottles to cart around if you're camping, less clean up in the shower....and most of all, you're not washing your hair with detergent....which you are doing when you buy commercial shampoos.
     I have very fine fine, if you will. And it's dry...has been my whole life. Shampoo bars don't condition quite enough for me...I still have to use a conditioner, or an apple cider vinegar rinse, but my head has gotten used to the bar and I will never buy shampoo again.
     Here is a recipe that I used tonight; I prefer hemp seed oil as well, but I am out:

6 oz Castor Oil
6 oz Sunflower Oil
10 oz Olive Oil
16 oz Coconut Oil (76 degrees)
5.45 oz lye
12.54 oz distilled water
(superfat at 6%)

     Tonight's batch was Lavender, Cedarwood, and Sandalwood. (not the best photography, but you get the idea)
      While I won't claim that it has cosmetic properties, let's just say that shampoo bars tend to help my color stay it's more blonde than white. (which I wanted at 22; not so much at 38) I used to dye my hair every two months or so; now I am going about four months.
      Shampoo bars take some getting used first, your hair may feel really dry....but it's the fact that you're using natural oils, not detergents that strip the oils from your hair to make you dependent upon using will take a few days to adjust, but for me, personally, I much prefer the bar over the bottle.
      If you try the recipe, tell me how it works out for you!


Frugally Sustainable Blog Hop

Wildcrafting Wednesday Featured Blogger Award

Saturday, August 3, 2013

"But We Already Played 'Babble Like an Idiot" free weekend. My mom is very generous to my kids, and decided to take them school shopping...but that means that I have to go as well. I don't do well with people in general (read: I don't do well with stupid), and today, we went to an outlet mall. I think I have found out what hell will feel like.
     Top that off with the bipolar tween boy, and I think I lost my mind about eight hours no soaping for Mom tonight. I honestly would rather drink a beer than clean my kitchen right now, anyway.
     The silver lining in all of this madness is that my husband rocks, and once again, is attuned to my desires and found me a new (well, used but new to me) stick blender at a thrift store. Plugged that baby in, and man, does she sing, in ways only a soaper would understand.

     This was an important purchase, as someone in my household moved my former stick blender onto the hot oven...where it melted. It still works, but in an odd, lopsided sort of way.
     I have to share the giggle for the day: I have started making "naughty" melt and pour soaps for the motorcycle rally over Labor Day, and forgot to hide them when I went to bed. My five year old, Ian, saw them on the counter and said, "Cool! They look like bones!"
     Tomorrow is another day...decluttering and soaping are the only things on the agenda, so hopefully I'll have something new and pretty to share with you.  Hope everyone enjoys their weekend!


(post title quote courtesy of Spongebob Squarepants)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tutorial: Red Eye Hot Process

     Every soapmaking book or blog that you read will tell you to minimize your distractions (or eliminate them) when working with lye. In my house, that is not possible. Between the human kids and the furry kids, there are always unwelcome kitchen visitors, so I try to make the best of the free time that I have...which I why I end up soaping at 2 AM.
Without further ado, here's my late at night soaping edition tutorial for hot process soap.

     I am obligated to tell you that you need to follow all safety precautions when working with lye..long sleeves, closed toe shoes, gloves, safety glasses, etc. Lye can be very nasty, and even though I haven't dealt with anything serious, I have felt the "itch" which can lead to a pretty serious chemical burn...I have been lucky and I'm lazy, but by all means, you should protect yourself. "Safety is sexy.." (though my five year old says that I shouldn't say that; it's inappropriate....not sure he even knows what that means.)

     On to the process:

     I decided to make a soap that was part shortening, part coconut oil, and part olive oil, which is pretty much my go-to recipe. The purpose of the tutorial is really more to show you the steps, rather than to dictate what you choose to make, but here is my recipe:

16 oz Vegetable Shortening
8 oz Coconut Oil
8 oz Olive Oil
4.49 oz lye
10.48 oz distilled water
(superfatted at 5%)

ALWAYS run your recipe through a reliable lye calculator, even if you think it is foolproof. I prefer to use the one from Brambleberry , but there are many to choose from. (Don't just blindly trust a recipe on the net; you never know what you'll end up with.) For this recipe, I used the calculator at Summer Bee Meadow.

First, you want to melt all of your oils. I use a crock pot that is set to low; it was a cheapie that I picked up at Goodwill. It works fine at LOW, but my other crock has to be kept on WARM, so you'll need to adjust to whatever temp is the most comfortable (and lowest) for you.

While your oils are melting, you want to mix your lye solution. NEVER POUR WATER INTO LYE; always pour your lye into water...think gently falling snow. The other way around can cause "volcanoing" and all sorts of hazardous issues that could land you in the ER, so this is pretty much the most important step of the process to remember. GENTLY FALLING SNOW=LYE POURED INTO WATER. Don't breathe in the fumes, either. Use a mask if you must.

Once that's done, that baby is going to heat up like there is no tomorrow, so it's a good idea to put it on a potholder on your counter. When using the HP (hot process) method, temperatures don't really matter, but keep in mind that the solution of lye/water is going to heat up to well over 300 degrees rather quickly, soitcan definitely burn.

Once your oils are melted, you can SLOWLY pour your lye solution into the pot. I use a mason jar for mine, because it can tolerate some high heat, but some use plastic...just remember, anything glass will etch over time.

Next, you'll want to take a stick blender (another Goodwill special) and start mixing the oil and lye with short pulses. You'll be working toward a "thick pudding" consistency for "trace", which is when you'll begin to see lines in the soap when you trail your blender across the top.

Once you have reached trace, it 's time for the cook. Make sure that you don't walk away from the crock, because your solution can climb out of the pot (which is a colossal mess.) By the way, you DO cover your crockpot with a lid during this process.

You'll start to see separation, or a "crust" form on the top: this is a critical time for staying near the crock. Resist the urge to stir unless it starts to get really close to the top. Who am I kidding? It will probably when it does, stir it down gently with a spatula, taking care to avoid the stuff that accumulates on the side of your crock...which will cause spots throughout your soap.

Next step: Wait. Really.

Once your soap has gelled, you'll get to that "vaseline" stage: this is where your soap will start to get a bit translucent; for me, it's usually about 30 minutes into the cook. It will start to feel waxy if you rub it between your fingers (which I would not suggest, unless you are cool with the whole masochistic hot waxy feeling.)

Cook it some more. I hate waiting, don't you?

When you get to "mashed potato" consistency, it's most likely done. So, it's time for the ZAP test.
Some people like to use PH strips, which, while safe, are expensive. I'm a bit of a tight ass that likes to live dangerously, so I am okay with zap testing, which simply means tasting your soap to make sure that it's done. If it is, it will taste like getting your mouth washed out for cursing. If not, it will feel akin to sticking your tongue on a 9 volt battery...repeatedly. Not a pleasant feeling.

So, you're past the zap, and all you've had to do is spit a few times and say, "ack" about a hundred times...what next?

Hopefully, you don't have ADHD like me and have remembered to line your mold in the meantime. Me? I'm usually scrambling and searching for the tape and freezer paper, but you can aspire to be normal, and have this all done way before the soap is cooked...

I like colors, so I prefer to separate my soap into a couple of glass bowls...and then work on getting the temp down. A few vigorous stirs should get you down to about 160, which is when I try to add my essential oils/colors, or fragrance oils. (Keep in mind that some florals will cause your soap to seize, which will make it rock hard and impossible to work with.)

Once you have added your color and scent, it's time to put that baby in the mold. "Glopping" is the best way to describe this process:

(kinda looks like pink poop...not something most parents look forward to seeing)

Bang that sucker against the counter a few will break up the air bubbles and smooth out your soap. Then, wait. It's a good idea to do this late at night if you're impatient like me...then you will have to go to bed and resist unmolding until the morning.

Ta da:
Wild Jasmine soap...smells delicious, even with soaper's nose (i.e can't smell crap; well, maybe crap but nothing else.) Make sure to give your bar about 4 weeks to cure, even though it is safe to use right away. The harder the bar gets, the longer it will last.

Happy soaping!